In the Face of Threats to our Health and Safety, We Don't Have Time for Political Sideshows

Written by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO, Green For All
Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club
Phil Radford, Executive Director, Greenpeace

Cross-posted on Huffington Post. Read original post here.

It's not an easy time in America. The problems we face are daunting and disturbing--from gun violence to poverty, joblessness, and climate change. In times like this, we want to be able to lean on our leaders. We want to trust that we can look to them for solutions, and guidance. We count on them to set aside politics and work diligently to protect us, the way President Obama and Governor Christie did in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

But increasingly, we're seeing the opposite. At a time when we desperately need pragmatic problem solvers in Washington, D.C., we're distracted by a swarm of personal, partisan attacks. We're seeing stunts like the one this week, which focused largely on the issue of whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency's Lisa Jackson--a target of big polluters and their allies on the right--should have named her secondary email account after her dog.

That's right. As our communities face serious, immediate threats to our health and safety, some folks in Washington, D.C. want to use our precious resources distracting us with these kind of meaningless stunts.

The thing is, we just don't have the time to waste on political sideshows right now. We have real problems to solve. Devastating storms like Sandy, massive wildfires like the ones we saw this summer in Colorado, droughts that drive up food prices, and public health epidemics caused by unchecked pollution.

Incidentally, no one has done more to address these problems than Administrator Jackson. And perhaps that's why she's become a target for extremist, pro-polluter politicians.

Under Jackson's leadership, the EPA has worked tirelessly to protect our public health from industries that dump dangerous chemicals into our air and water. This year the agency issued long overdue safeguards from mercury--a potent neurotoxin that, among other things, causes birth defects. These mercury safeguards will bring up to $90 billion annually in healthcare savings and other economic benefits--including jobs. And just last week, EPA announced new protections from soot pollution that will prevent an estimated 15,000 premature deaths each year.

We need more of this kind of pragmatism in Washington. But in the face of relentless partisan attacks, it's becoming more and more difficult for problem solvers like Jackson to get the job done. That's why we need to send a clear message to our leaders: It's time to stop the political sideshows and spend our country's resources where they matter--protecting our health and safety, and putting Americans to work in good, green jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

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